Tag Archives: Cruise America

Back for a Month

We have been back from holiday for over a month now, but as you can imagine with a trip so different and magical, it seems like an eternity ago.

I realised that I had been remiss in not really discussing my general feelings about the holiday and although I have gone into the specific days of the trip in great detail, I have not summarised my, or our feelings, which many people have been asking about, so I though I would attempt to look at the good (and bad?) points of such a holiday, for the record.

There are many good points about hiring an RV in the States, which are simply related to the fact that you have the freedom to tour the mass expanse of the United States with all its beauty and variety, but much of this you could do, for example, if you hired a car (big enough for seven people with luggage, in our case). This in itself would be tight and compact in anything but an RV, although the gas would undoubtedly be cheaper in a smaller, lighter more economical car and I can’t help feeling that you would be struggling to think you had had a holiday after travelling for a few weeks in a small car. 2,500 miles in an MPV? I don’t think so! So here is the main advantage of an RV. It is sufficiently large to allow a certain amount of freedom of movement, to have cases unpacked all the time, rather than living out of a suitcase and let’s not underestimate the advantage of having a mobile ‘rest room’, especially when the distance between suitable stops can easily be 30-40 miles or more.

The size of the RV, is simultaneously its greatest advantage and it’s biggest downfall though, since with size comes a significant lack of manoeuvrability and economy. The beast took a deal of getting used to, even on the spacious routes in the US and reversing was a constant nightmare, especially at nighttime in the dark, where you can’t see the person behind, helping you to back into a limited space! Navigating some of the winding, hilly roads was also a challenge; I will remember the route up and down towards the forests of Muir Woods, to the north of San Francisco, for some time and waking in a cold sweat from one of those “we’ve lost our steering and brakes” type dreams in the future, would not surprise me.

This, of course, is one of the reasons that many people tow a car behind them with an RV, not only for the convenience, but also so that the mobile hotel does not have to be your only mode of transport. It would have been useful for us on a number of occasions and would have made things easier regarding, for instance, getting into the city centres of San Francisco or Las Vegas, or simply ‘popping to the shops’ which was impractical in the RV, considering not only the manoeuvrability, but also the not insubstantial logistics of parking the titanic automobile. The inconvenience of unhooking and hooking the utilities all the time while apparently minor also quickly becomes a chore to be avoided at all costs; imagine getting under the sink to disconnect the waste pipe each time you need to go to the shops for a Mars Bar and you’ll have some idea of the potential schlep of not being organised! Clearly the down side to this is that there would be significant extra costs associated with the hire of a second vehicle that is predominantly ‘just along for the ride’, from both the car hire and RV hire companies (for the privilege), as well as the ‘gas’ companies as a result of the even further reduced economy.

So, you could conceivably do the distance in a smaller car if the size of your party was smaller, and you could easily get motels or even go camping as many of the RV sites we stayed in also had camping facilities. I cannot imagine this would be at all feasible, or more importantly enjoyable, for Team Pomeroy though and the cost of extra motel / hotel rooms would have mounted up over time, even in comparison to the cost of the RV parks, which were anything from $40-$75 per night.

So on to the more general features, or why wouldn’t we go on a ‘beach’ holiday instead?

Well, admittedly the balance between travelling enormous distances and enjoyment of the sights and locations we visited was indeed a tough one, but I think we managed to get it about right. Most of the time the places we stayed, either had a swimming pool, or were next to some form of natural water (Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell). In fact the only place that didn’t have water, was Westlake, Yosemite, ironically. Even the next day, we had the hot springs in Benton to enjoy on the morning of our stay. Had we arrived earlier we would no doubt have enjoyed the soothing warmth of the naturally heated water late into the evening, but as it was late when we pitched up, it is academic.

On a beach holiday, could you be in a major metropolis one night and next to a moutain lake the next, and then running through a desert the following?

Sure on a beach holiday, you can visit different places, see different sights, but I’ll bet it would be tough to get the expanse, variety and different combination of experiences that we got, from a single centre holiday. I guess you could change to a Multi-centre trip; say 3/4/5 days in each place. And you might get a similar experience, but to get the same, you’d probably be talking about flying, hotels, packing and so on, and then again you run the risk of getting the ‘living out of a suitcase’ feeling.

No. I think that actually there are very few places in the world where you can go that would afford you the opportunity to see so many different environments and fabulous sights, from the vast expanse and raw beauty of the Salt Flats to the bleak mountain deserts of Nevada, through the alpine summer of Lake Tahoe to the thriving metropolis’s of San Francisco and Las Vegas, all totally different places in their own rights which could have provided their own entertainment for many more days than we could spend in them, and then add to that all the natural wonders of the Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks through to the man-made astonishment of the Hoover Dam, Route 66 nostalgia at Williams, and the simple pleasures of all the other places we saw and people we met.

Even travelling between places it was a delight to see such pure variety within a relatively ‘short’ distance from day to day, and yet also give the traveller the capability to move about with ease on the open roads and in such a relaxed and free manner, without having to book ahead, as safe in the knowledge that a plentiful supply of places would exist in the majority of towns and cities we visited. I think it is the combination of the two that really makes the holiday. Time is always a factor though, and although we were had the RV for 16 days we could easily have done with another couple of days to see the giant redwoods in California and Monument Valley in Arizona, the two places that faired negatively from adjustments in our itinerary by the end of the trip

In summary, I would struggle to find a better way to enjoy the huge variety that the USA has to offer the curious traveller, provided you are aware of the costs involved, and it is critically important to be balanced between travelling and stopping in order to feel you’ve had a holiday at the end of your vacation.

No Place Like Home

Travelling early afternoon back east, losing time, jet lag and short sleep with four children’s confused bodies. This is what we had to look forward to on our last day(s) of holiday.

We tried to make the best of it, starting with a final US breakfast (I had to try the waffle machine and the children quickly followed suit!) and then we had a final swim about and relaxed in the pool.

However, there was no getting away from our impending transatlantic journey, which had been split again into two legs, from SLC to Atlanta early afternoon and then, having lost two hours due to catching up with the sun travelling east, a mid-evening flight to Heathrow.

Comfy on the flight

We had picked up a fair amount of extra luggage during our 16 days of travelling the best part of 2,500 miles, albeit around only four of the States in America; Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona. So, as you can imagine, after packing our cases (… I don’t understand it; it all came out of there!) we had a few extras to carry! We managed to cart everything to the airport in the taxi and although I had checked in online earlier, we still had to verify our seats as they appeared all over the place on the layout.

After a final incident with a can of lemonade, which after the tight packing had been pierced and leaked all over my hand luggage, we quickly got through the security formalities and found our way through to grab some lunch before boarding the internal flight – the cost of the selection on the way out was rather high and the quality equally as dubious, hence our desire to be organised, and not be forced to purchase the in-flight offerings.

The daytime flight passed without event and we then only had a short wait at the other end, in Atlanta, after the monorail journey from the domestic terminal at one end to the international terminal at the other. Dad was glad not to to be subjected to more walking through the concourse as, I think were we all, given the distance involved.

Boarding was also a formality; it seems we have got our timings about right during this holiday. We did have to swap seats again with a mother and daughter, in order to ‘consolidate’ our party, but everyone settled quickly and all the movie screens thankfully worked to the best of their ability to keep our tribe entertained. We all, I think, managed to grab some sleep on the 7 hour flight, before arriving (12 hours later on the clock….) in Heathrow.

The officer on the immigration desk was surprisingly chirpy for so early in the morning (i.e. before 10am) and the pleasant welcome back to the UK continued when even our luggage came out in a whole bunch, to the extent I started to get embarrassed about pulling out our entire complement of 6 cases from the carousel while others were still waiting for their first! The luck of the draw, I guess 🙂

We had arranged a long term car park (Purple Parking) where you can elect to have your car brought straight to the terminal, rather than have to take an additional shuttle bus to a parking lot in the middle of nowhere, and it is at this precise moment that this service is percieved as of maximum benefit, since within 5 minutes of exiting the terminal we were on our way to Bracknell, to drop my dad off at my sister’s. Amusingly though, having driven our wobbly steering wheeled, high seated, wide berthed, under-performing, super-sized ‘bus’ for the best part of the last three weeks, it was hilarious to now be back in our Chrysler Voyager, which was like driving a Mclaren F1 on rails by comparison. Luckily, I only had to think a couple of times before slotting back into the mode of driving on the right side of the road 😉

So that was it.

30 minutes through the green and leafy English countryside (although I seriously doubt the journey from Heathrow, through Windsor, Slough, Maidenhead and the outskirts of Reading, along the M4 has been regularly described in such a manner) and we were in Binfield on the periphery of Bracknell town.

A quick cup of tea and the fellowship of the RV was beginning to disband. Dad proudly wore his Grand Canyon tee-shirt into the house, while we chatted (in slightly subdued, jet-lagged fashion) about all our adventures before we left for the final 20 minute journey of our adventure. The children became increasingly excited about seeing the cats again, although Liz and I suspected they might snub our attention, having been left on their own in the house with only the occasional visits from the neighbours for the final 2 nights, but in the end we needn’t have worried; they appeared just as excited to have us home.

It would take us a few days to finally unpack all the cases, and slightly longer to recover from the jet-lag, but we were home nonetheless.

What a fantastic expedition we had experienced, and the plans for next year are already underway 🙂

Final RV Day

This was to be our final day with the RV 🙁

We had plenty to do though, but as we thought it had to be returned to the Cruise America Sales and Rental site in Salt Lake City at 1pm, we were under the impression we had plenty of time to spare to empty tanks, fill up to anticipate leaving it with 1/4 tank of gas, and the domestic arrangements for getting the laundry done so as to ensure not taking home a weekend full of chores.

We left the KOA Fillmore RV Park and stopped for gas, and that was when the nightmare ‘paying-for-gas-and-treats’ began. The cashier, charged me for someone else’s fuel and just managed to call me back as I was leaving. 3/4 hour later after involving 3 people in the gas station, 2 administrator call lines from the head office of the chain (which I won’t mention), realising I hadn’t been charged correctly for the sweets I’d bought either and then multiple attempts to credit the wrong amount back onto my card before finally debiting the right amount, we were on our way again.

The Long Journey Home

So, of course, we were now late! Not the best way to start your last full day of holiday.

Liz drove all the way for the final 150 miles from Fillmore back to the Cruise America depot and luckily we made good time and arrived a few minutes before 1pm, only to discover, ironically, that we needn’t have been back before 3pm! Such is life! 😉

We were possibly all rather tired after so much travelling or, more likely, just melancholic about the fact it was the end of such a fantastic holiday. Either way, everyone was rather subdued on that last journey as we contemplated our return to the UK and our respective routines – all good things come to an end, but if anyone has a green card going spare, there are at least three people I know of who would consider taking up the opportunities afforded by such a sought after document!

We unloaded the cases and left the last of our remaining supplies on the table for ‘incoming’ clients, although most of the perishables were immediately squirrelled away by our thick-set Mexican taxi driver – perks of the job I guess.

Nevertheless, he transported us to the hotel without difficulty and we were soon trying to negotiate all the extra luggage we had acquired, via a rather overloaded trolley, to our rooms. After unpacking the evening essentials, we then discovered that the Utah licensing laws were quite strict on the sale of alcohol and although dad and I found a restaurant for lunch, while Liz took the children to the pool, there was no beer to be had – horror!

A few more hours at the pool, catching up with diaries, blogs and notes, and swimming with the children (even the few small pools we have had at the parks we have stayed at have helped to give the little ones more confidence in the water; I suspect neither of them will need a ring when they get back to swimming lessons next term.

Eventually we finished the evening with a nice meal and settled the children down after watching a bizarre programme on the World’s Greatest Water Rides, which they seemed to enjoy.

RV Trip, Day 16: Fillmore to Salt Lake City, UT
Day Mileage: 151 miles
Total Mileage: 2400 miles

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Rim Run and Zion

Bryce Canyon Sunrise!

This was to be our last proper day of holiday 🙁

Tomorrow was to be taken up with packing, travelling back to Salt Lake City, dropping the RV off and then hopefully relaxing in the hotel at SLC.

Today, we had two more things planned and the first required an early start.

We wanted to try to get up to see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. Contrary to the names of the vista points along the rim, we had been told that ‘Inspiration Point’ was the best place to see the sunrise, as opposed, ironically, to ‘Sunrise Point’.

Luckily, since we were now on daylight saving time in the mountains, sunrise was at 6:55am (the previous day in Arizona, it had been 5:55am! We tried to make our way, as quietly as possible, out of Ruby’s Inn RV park, disconnecting our amenities in a flash – seasoned RV’ers after only a couple of weeks 🙂 We then drove up to nearly the highest point of the Bryce Canyon rim, where the first vestiges of sunlight were starting to illuminate the eastern sky.

Liz rushed up to the high point with her camera to start to take photos of what promised to be a magnificent event; indeed, there were several other people there who had had the same idea. Dad wondered up to the first point and after ‘settling’ the children down, I followed to the mid point of the rising rim and found a boulder on the edge of the cliff to sit on.

For a brief instant in time, we had a spectacular and privileged view of the sun rising, as it slowly crept its way above the horizon and stuttered behind the distant blanket of clouds, releasing a red warmth onto the chilly mountain side. A daily event, for sure, but unique to see the patterns within the canyon, illuminating the hoodoos which had taken thousands of years to form and which were ever changing in the slowly rising light.

After the spectacular sight, I got back to the RV to find the children going wild! It is difficult sometimes to have such emotive experiences, and then be brought down to reality so suddenly by the practical needs of the youngsters. However, after Liz had returned as well, and settled them down, I was ready for my next exploit while they had breakfast. A run along the rim.

Since we were only a couple of kilometres from the high point of the rim, I decided it would be rude not to go all the way to the top first and then turn round and come back ‘down’ the edge of the precipitous cliffs to the most northerly view point of the park, although this was a desire vs. time constraint compromise.

Bryce Rim Sunrise – Not a bad place for a Run

As I started out from the car park and up the first incline, I hoped my initial breathlessness was simply a result of a ‘standing start’ and going up hill without having warmed up for a few km; that and the 8,200ft altitude, of course. I was reminded, for the second time this vacation, of the Western States 100, which starts out with a vicious 3-4km climb from Squaw Valley, up to the highest point of the course, before the undulating one way route descends over 100 miles into Auburn. Perhaps I should practice my uphill running from cold.

Only half an hour after the sun had risen, I was already beginning to feel the heat, on first my left side and then, after reaching the summit at Bryce Point, turning and retracing my steps, on my right side. I stopped briefly every few moments, as I reached another corner or crest with another new and stunning view of the canyon to the east, to take some remarkably pleasing picture with my iPhone.

If I thought that the route was to be all downhill from the turning point I was sadly disappointed as it too was an undulating route along the ridge of the canyon, but this at least gave me a good workout. I ran through my start point and them on for another 2-3km before reaching Sunrise Point where I had arranged to meet my breakfasting family. They had had an adventure of their own and, being confused about where they were to meet me, had travelled around the various vistas but luckily had arrived at the perfect time to meet me.

What a fantastic day so far, and it wasn’t even 9:00am yet 🙂

After a quick bite of breakfast and shower, while the children played in the surrounding woods, only at the end of which did we discover that ‘rattlesnake activity’ was HIGH :shock:, we then continued our journey, but went south for 40 miles or so, back along the road we had previously travelled to Bryce, back down in elevation, and then 20 or so miles west to Zion National Park, our second treat for the day.

Zion is more popular than Bryce, as it is more accessible and lower elevation, but is just as beautiful albeit for different reasons. We entered the canyon and realised that approaching the route through the park from the east, we were actually descending further into the valley which after the climbs of the last few days to get to our destinations was an unusual feeling. The canyon walls were beautiful though, and etched in unbelievable way as if someone had spent a lifetime with a cold chisel and hammer drawing a myriad of designs of the rock faces, some etched vertically in contrast to the horizontal sedimentation lines, some horizontal weathering effects and some diagonal and cross-cross herringbone lines produced by heaven knows what effect! Beautiful though.

We had been warned at the entrance to the park that there were two tunnels, the second of which we were considered an ‘oversized vehicle’ for and hence needed a ranger ‘escort! This amounted to only allowing one way traffic through the tunnel so that we could drive down the middle of the 1/2 mile tunnel hewn through the canyon wall.

Zion National Park – After the second tunnel – Click for Panorama

As we emerged from the other side, we were exposed to a final perilous descent down a switchback through the almost unfeasibly steep cliff valley on either side. The pictures we took, on stopping will never do it justice.

At the bottom of the valley and the other side of the park, we stopped for some some lunch and found a Thai restaurant which although incongruous in its location, was a great meal.

Setting off again we were soon back on the interstate, with ‘only’ 160 miles to go to our final evening stop in the RV. We had decided to push on to a place called Fillmore, simply because it had a hot-tub as well as a swimming pool at the KOA RV park; such are the simple demands of under-11 year olds.

As it turned out the park was well enough presented with a great view of the mountains to the east and although several miles away, there was nothing between us and them except, as it turned out, a couple of thunderstorms. At least they whipped up a nice breeze while we were packing. Fillmore itself was a small place, a bit of a one horse town perhaps, but the restaurant we ate at for our final evening meal in the RV did us proud.

RV Trip, Day 15: Ruby’s Inn RV Park, Bryce Canyon to Fillmore, UT
Day Mileage: 246 miles
Total Mileage: 2249 miles
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Bryce Canyon

Morning Run

After a late night, way too much sugary dessert and losing an hour after we came into Utah (daylight saving Mountain Time), none of us woke up particularly early.

I had worked out a route to try to get a run in along some of what looked like trails just to the south of where we were parked up, and slightly to the north of Bryce Canyon proper, but it was 8:30 before there was any sign of movement. Breakfast was going to take some time to sort out so I donned my trail shoes and prepared to experience the trails at 7,700ft.

The children were happily playing when I left with my water and phone (with GPS) to check my directions. In the end I probably didn’t need the phone but is is alway comforting to know where you are when in strange locations, with no signs, in the wilderness.

Admiring the View

I ran an easy 5 miles or so through the forest trails which had been ‘prepared’ for the ATV activities around here. It was a hot run and had a couple of gentle rises, but nothing taxing and nothing technical. I think I was lucky in that I only saw two groups of ATVs as well – one stopped as I was crossing the main road and one passed me towards the end of my run, the majority of whom looked extremely nervous, so I can only assume that they had only just recently set off on their steeds for their adventure.

Breakfast was just in progress as I returned so after grabbing cereal and a quick shower I was ready to join the others for the day.

We got the shuttle bus which ran from right outside the RV park all around Bryce Canyon, stopping at the visitor and information centre and then to the highest point of the park at 8296ft, appropriately named Bryce point.

Grottos at Bryce Point

The sights that beheld us as we came up to the view point were astounding.

The ‘amphitheatre’ basin of Bryce Canyon is made up of deposits laid down millions of years ago during the cretaceous period when this part of North America was a seabed. The sandstone deposits were pushed up to their current height by the same continental uplift which created major numbers of structures in North America.

Bryce Canyon, has the highest concentration of structures called hoodoos anywhere in the world; they are formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks.

We stopped at bryce point for a picnic lunch and the children, although surrounded by wonderous sights, delighted in taking pictures of the half-tame squirrels and chipmunks along the precarious paths. The heat was oppressive in the exposed, high altitude location though and Dad was struggling a bit, so we soon got the bus down to the next vista point – ‘Inspiration point’ where the astounding views continued; the reds, oranges and yellows of the eroded formations looking like hundreds of cathedral spires.

Cathedral Spires at Inspiration Point

We carried on our tour via the bus to the next point, ‘Sunset Point’ where we saw the amphitheatre from a different, and lower, vantage point and spotted the named structure called Thor’s Hammer, a large Hoodoo standing out from its smaller neighbours, with a large rectangluar block on the top.

There was one more stop which the bus took us to, but the heat was taking it’s toll on our party at this stage and we stayed on the bus to get back to the village and just outside the RV park.

The children insisted on swimming in no time at all, but we all needed 10 minutes and a cup of tea (how English!) to relax before the pool antics continued.

We meandered our way back to the village and the hotel restaurant for an early supper (pot roast and apple pie, mmmmm!) but the children, who were probably still on Pacific Time, had a few false starts getting to bed. Eventually we finished the rest of the evening next to a fire under a clear sky, with stars and a nearly full moon updating our diaries, photos, and blogs.

RV Trip, Day 14: Ruby’s Inn RV Park, Bryce Canyon, UT
Total Mileage: 2003 miles
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North to Bryce Canyon

This morning, in the marina next to Lake Powell, we awoke with the sunrise over the lake – there was a beautiful red on eastern horizon which complemented the surrounding hills. Liz and Dad went to take pictures while I stayed after a restless night.

[singlepic id=590 w=320 h=240 float=right]Liz made scrambled eggs for all our breakfast, as we were starting to think of using up our supplies! She then took the children for a quick walk to the shore of Lake Powell while dad and I sorted out the RV.

This is another lake which has been formed by the damming of the Colorado River, and Lake Powell is second in size of reservoir capacity to Lake Mead, which is the Reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam. As with Lake Mead though, the levels of the water were very low, and the children had to walk almost 3/4 mile to get from the car park to the shore.

After I’d disconnected the RV in the now routine process of disconnecting the waste pipe, water and electricity hook up, Dad and I drove round to the shore to find the children all having an impromptu skinny dipping session – as they had not taken their costumes with them and could not resist the water in the heat of the Arizona sunlight at 10am.

I swam with them for a bit, (NOT skinny dipping!) which was quite pleasant in the fresh water of the lake, although interestingly it was not anywhere near as clear as the mountain water at Lake Tahoe, since the Colorado River, feeding the lake, has no doubt done many thousands of miles before reaching this point and so understandably would have got a bit mucky on the way.

We were quickly back on the road and out of the site, conscious of the fact that when we crossed the state line, some two minutes later, we would lose an hour as we moved into Utah. Back in Utah, we were really starting to feel like we were on our way home.

The ever-changing landscape continued to thrill us, with more red canyons cliffs and rainbow strata on the way east to Kanab before turning north again towards the National Parks of Zion and Bryce Canyon. We were hoping to get to Zion, but would have to see how the time goes as it is running out rapidly and we have heard good reports of Bryce Canyon from a lot of friends.

[singlepic id=591 w=320 h=240 float=left]The way up to Bryce Canyon, where we were now heading seemed like quite a short journey, only 150 miles for the day. After a couple of souvenir stops at the local Navajo Indian stores we reached Ruby’s Inn a couple of miles outside Bryce Canyon at about 3:00pm; this was having lost an hour to the daylight saving time change moving from Arizona to Utah though – about 2½ hours travelling without stops.

We decided not to get the shuttle bus into the Park, so it was straight down to the pool after a quick bite of lunch, for an hour or so to let the children relax and let off some steam, and then back to the town for some more hunting round the souvenir shops for an early supper.

Ruby’s inn seems to be quite an authentic cattle town. There was a rodeo show and horse riding, and although it seems quite tourist oriented (judging from the hoards of Germans descending on the hotel buffet from a tour coach in mid-evening) it also seems quite genuine, judging from the sounds of the cattle and the smell of the horses around the town!

RV Trip, Day 13: Wahweap RV Park, Page, Az to Bryce Canyon, UT
Day Mileage: 146 miles
Total Mileage: 2003 miles
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Grand Canyon Treat

We had a busy day planned, and also, for the first time in a couple of weeks, a deadline to meet. Dad had very kindly offered to pay for us to go up in a flight around the Grand Canyon, and as this was scheduled for 12:00pm and we had to be there for a safety briefing 45 minutes beforehand, and the airport was 50 miles to the north, we really needed to be on the road by 10:15

Still time for an early morning run though 🙂

And the Earth was cleaved in two….

It was not particularly early when I set out and it was a quick and simple loop around the town of Williams, mostly along the streets of the old Route 66, which the town had spliced into a one way loop. I did get up into the hills at the south of the town briefly, and even got my shoes dirty on rough trails, but the only thing that was stressful was the altitude. We were at about 7000ft, so my sea-level familiar lungs were struggling a bit. It was an interesting run to have done though and as Liz said, Williams was a bit like Leadville from an authenticity point of view, only a touch more commercial. I think they got the balance about right though.

Liz had kingly been doing the necessities of laundry for us, in the very well equipped RV park and the children and dad had already had breakfast when I returned, so I grabbed a bowl of cereal, before showering and then disconnecting our chariot ready for the off.

The children were getting used to having a swimming pool in every park that we went to, and so had been promised a swim before we left. Here though the swimming pool was inside and part of the associated hotel. I had a quick dip but then joined dad for a coffee in the hotel lounge – very civilised. Time was pressing on though and so Liz went to get the RV round to the front for dad and we left the small town after getting more ‘gas’, although this proved to be quite a fraught process this time, waiting for a space big enough and then having my bank card rejected! Eventually, and rather later than we had planned, we were on our way though.

South Rim

We arrived at ‘Grand Canyon Airways’ later than we had hoped, but as it turned out the crew were very relaxed and the ‘safety briefing’ did not materialise in the end.

We were joined by another two people on our flight and after the obligatory photo shoot with the pilot, we ascended the few steps to our assigned seats. Dad was lucky enough to be given the front right seat next to the pilot, and although the large step to get in was a struggle for him, we managed to get him installed in the best seat in the house 🙂

The views that we had of the Canyon, approaching from the south, flying north east to the north rim and then back to the south rim were fantastic. Up at 10,000ft some 3,000ft above the upper edge of the canyon, you cannot help but be completely overwhelmed by the great majesty of this massive gouge through the Earth. The sheer scale of the gorge, from side to side and from one end to the disappearing horizon, the colours of the statified soil, rocks, boulders in contrast to the surrounding vegetation is a sight to behold and one which I’ve no doubt will stay in all our memories for some time. The plane had a PA system through which they played some appropriatetly soothing music, interspersed with the occasional facts about the history, discovery and vitalstatistics of the canyon. I have to be honest though, I didn’t listen to much of the commentary as I think we were all awed by the spectacle of one of nature’s greatest sights.

We all took plenty of pictures and the occasional video though to help with remembering that once in a lifetime experience.

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Brief moments of flying over the Grand Canyon, Arizona

The fourty minutes was over in a flash and we were suddenly on approach to the runway again, the Cessna Caravan wobbling about in the turbulence from a combination of the heat of the sun and no doubt the steep sides of the of the Canyon. Back at the airport we got a few momentos but rather than drive straight through, we all needed food and more to the point we needed to revel in the moment from our experience of the last hour, so we stopped for a rather surprisingly authentic Mexican lunch.

We carried on east along the south rim and stopped often for photos; there was another thunderstorm starting to the north and we got even more incredible pictures of the storm brewing over the canyon.

Views from Heaven – Click for Panorama

At this stage we were not sure what turns to take next, as we had hoped to get to Monument Valley, but unfortunately it was to be too much of a journey as we also wanted to get to see the National Parks at both Bryce Canyon and Zion – the question, with the roads available to travel, was how far could we make it. The landscapes continued to amaze as we travelled north, back now towards our final desination of Salt Lake City in a few days.

In the end we decided to head for Page, still just inside the border of Arizona, where we could hopefully stay at Lake Powell, another dam created lake on the mighty Colorado River. I was sad not to be going to Monument valley, but we still had the pleasure of many, many more beautiful moutains, escarpments, plateaus and cliffs combined with more lightning, rainstorms and sandstorms which this time we were lucky enough to view from a respectable distance on our way further north. Thankfully the journey was relatively easy, with little traffic, and we made it well before the sun was going down.

After driving past the Dam at Page, we drove down the scenic Lakeside Drive, with the children getting all excited that they were at the seaside again before we finally stopped at the Wahweap Marina RV Park, on shores of lake Powell. Liz made some supper for us all, while I made up a fire – without kindling, but with a lot of blowing and fanning applied to the cardboard, of which we did have plenty, we were toasting marshmallows in no time 🙂

During the night, or more likely early morning, we heard an eerie howling and realised it was probably the local coyotes out on the town. We didn’t hear any road runners 😉

RV Trip, Day 12: Williams, AZ to Wahweap RV Park, Page, Az
Day Mileage: 202 miles
Total Mileage: 1857 miles
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Into Arizona

Our extra day stay in Las Vegas mean that we had to be mindful of the time we had left and we now really had to push on to somewhere in the Grand Canyon, which was our next planned stop.

After another hot night we could not resist having another cooling swim before we left Las Vegas. On our way out of the city, our trusty SatNav (Garmin iPhone app!) was constantly trying to get us to turn left to the east, but I’d decided a daytime tour along the Strip would leave a suitable impression, and it was worth the detour, as the children were amazed by the sights including the Eiffel tower, Pyramid, Sphinx, the giant Harley Davidson we had seen the night before, the New York buildings; they were snapping away on their iPod cameras.

Hoover Dam – The ‘Full’ Side – Click for Panorama

It was a short trip east to the Hoover Dam which is another incredible sight but it was again very hot, and appeared to have been the same for a few months as the water levels were many feet below the top of the spillway – even the mighty Colorado River which feeds the dam, has not been immune to the recent hot weather in the US. It is amazing to think that, once plans had been drawn up and agreements reached, it only took 3 years from first concrete laying to final concrete and power generation – all of this happening during the great depression of the 1930’s. We parked up and walked back across the dam and took pictures to try to record our memories, and then I went back to get the RV to meet dad, Liz and the children on the other side.
We carried on back past Lake Mead, the lake created by the dam, which is also very beautiful and an oasis in the Nevada desert, but even here the water levels were very low after long warm summer.

Liz’s Lightning

We stopped briefly for lunch in Boulder City and a few more provisions before we went to the airport at boulder city to enquire about flights around the Grand Canyon, which we were hoping we’re going to be cheaper than in Vegas!

It was a fairly easy, but long, journey to Williams, just south of the Grand Canyon, and we had to contend with the first rain of our trip as we drove through thunderstorms, which were a fascinating sight as we approached from the arid conditions of Nevada. It was sometimes a bit hairy on the roads with the large trucks passing though, especially with the RV struggling up the hills!

We steadily increased in altitude again, and the scenery got a lot greener as we made our way east across Arizona, along what was the most southerly part of our journey through the States, almost at 35°N latitude compared to our starting point of 45°N at Salt Lake City.

Eventually, after a couple of rainstorms, and some rainbows and brilliant displays of lightning across the mountainous plains, one of which Liz with a lot of patience, managed to get a photo, we turned off the I-40 and stopped at the Grand Canyon Railway RV park, in a place called Williams. This turned out to be one of those places that was originally on Route 66, the ‘mother road’, which stretched across America before the introduction of the interstate highways. The town was steeped in memorabilia for the old west, route 66 and Indian Navajo crafts, all remembering the bygone eras before 1984, when the town was the last on Route 66 to be bypassed. We even saw a reenactment of an old western gunfight between bungling bank robbers!
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Williams Cowboy Gunfight

After a bit of shopping, we retired to a good old 60’s style diner and while the children had their now common chicken strips, dad and I had a local Grand Canyon beer and barbecue spare ribs!

I’ll need to run tomorrow 🙂

RV Trip, Day 11: Las Vegas, NV to Williams, AZ via Hoover Dam
Day Mileage: 240 miles
Total Mileage: 1655 miles
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Swimming in Vegas

It was so hot overnight, we spent most of the morning and early afternoon darting from swimming pool, breakfast in the A/C RV back to the pool, lunch in the A/C RV and then back to the pool!
Today went something like this:

  • Swimming in the Pool
  • Breakfast in the Air Conditioned RV
  • Swimming in the Pool
  • Lunch in the Air Conditioned RV
  • Swimming in the Pool

 

Cotton Candy Dessert

In fact, we had planned to go back into Vegas to ‘The Strip’ mid to late afternoon to see if it was less crowded, but in the end the heat won over us and we decided against it.

We had to get some supper though, so we treked our way to the hotel Circus Circus opposite where we were staying and had a meal in the air conditioning there instead! We went to a Rock ‘n Rita’s for a pleasant supper, but the boys were more interested in the American Football playing on the big screens. They naturally assumed it was rugby (because of the shape of the ball) so I had to search my memory for the rules of the game to explain to the children and dad!

The children had even more surprises coming as we ordered them cotton candy for dessert which, of course, they loved.

As we departed the restaurant dad and I threw a couple of dollars into the ‘Slots of Fun’ and although we won a few times on the 1c slots, we eventually lost our stake money and came away.

We settled the children down in the RV with grandad kindly baby sitting for us, and then Liz and I hit the town!

Outside the Harley Davidson store

We got the bus back into the Strip, but stayed on it a little longer than previously, going further south almost to the MGM Grand Hotel, opposite New York, New York, where we saw a (large) scale replica of the statue of liberty, and another building made up of a medley of skyscrapers including the Empire State and the Chrysler Building. We crossed over the road to the Hard Rock Café and walked north taking in all the sights. This end of the South Las Vegas Boulevard seemed a little more characterised by restaurants and tacky shops though (and the inevitable locals every 20ft trying to give away flyers for escort girls, nude shows and all other manner of questionable entertainment!)

We passed quickly along the street stopping briefly at the Harley Davidson store, complete with giant Harley breaking out of the first floor.

We then made our way to the Bellagio again as we wanted to see not only the magnificent fountains (which I could spend hours watching) but also to go inside to have a look at the massive casino floor of Ocean’s Eleven fame.

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The unique Bellagio Fountains, to the Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

There are many spectacular sights in Las Vegas, but one of the most astounding, in my opinion, is the size of the casino floor in the Bellagio, which is only one of the hundreds of casinos in the town, and yet this, as with most others, was packed with people gambling at all manner of games to try to ‘strike it rich’. Liz and I are not gamblers, and so it was fascinating to watch the gambling on the roulette wheels, the ‘craps’ tables, black jack and poker as well as any number of other games of which neither of us had ever heard.

We quickly lost a couple of dollars in the slots in the Bellagio, and then made our way back to the RV park by bus again.

We could not resist a quick flutter as we walked back through the air conditioning of Circus Circus casino floor again (maybe that is how addictions start!) and although we had won earlier, our money quickly dwindled away to nothing. All in all we came away about $4 down on the night; the house always wins 😉

When we got back to the RV it was between 12:30-1:00am and all the occupants were fast asleep. For the record, Dad reported next morning that the children had been as good as gold, and after watching a couple of DVDs had taken themselves to bed without any fuss.

Miracles will never cease 🙂

RV Trip Day 10: KOA Circus Circus, Las Vegas, NV
Total Mileage: 1415 miles
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Viva Las Vegas!

We woke early with the sun in our isolated car park but, after negotiating with the owner of the B&B whose car park we had stayed in, we hired a hot tub, fed from the hot springs that Benton is, apparently, famous for and had breakfast alfresco while the children enjoyed playing in the deep-earth-warmed water. It was rather too hot for dad, and Liz and I cold only stay in for a few moments at a time.

Rusty Classics

The place was quite idyllic; there was a real old cemetery on the side of the hill, of the sort that you see is countless old western movies, and there were heaps of old farm machinery, rusty, derelict wagons and some more modern scrap and rusty cars as well, but being American, they looked large and stylish, even in the twilight of their existence. It seemed to me to be a real old settlers village – Benton Hot Springs Pop 13 1/2

We were all packed up and on our way to Tonopah, NV, in an hour or so and by about 10:30, we were passing through many strange old settlements on US-6 and US-95 south, many of which were exactly as one would expect from the post-gold and silver rush environments of late-nineteenth century America; ramshackle saloon, boarded up shops and sad-looking casinos; in fact all that was needed was the tumbleweed blowing across the street and we could’ve been back in frontier times. We didn’t stop in the couple of places that passed as habitation every thirty of so miles.

Once we had passed Tonopah and turned south, we started seeing signs to Death Valley (where the Badwater race is run) as Death Valley is just to the west of US-95. It was tempting to go have a ‘look’ but we had been warned that the RV A/C would struggle with the heat, and that we were not insured, should anything breakdown on our vehicle, so we had decided to stick to the detour route. Sadly.

We stopped at a place called Beatty for lunch and gas (the RV was only managing about 8-9mpg with all the hills and mileage we were throwing at it!!!!) and we had our one and only experience of ‘Subway’ sandwiches in the US.

Swimming Time

Having seen the size of the sandwiches, I decided I needed to work up a bit of an appetite and go for a run along the road, but also as a taste of what it would be like in Badwater. I wore a rucksack to carry bottles of ice-cold water, my white Sahara hat and sunglasses. I only managed 4 miles in 30 minutes before the family caught me up after lunch, but I was certainly glad to be back in the RV. The run was mostly on the level, and running into the wind occasionally, but still like running into an open oven door!

A shower on the move was quite a novelty as well!

We continued south-east and passed the Death Valley sand dunes, more beautiful stratified landscapes bordering our journey on the way down to Las Vegas, as well as the Nevada Test site and Nellis Air force base, where we saw a couple of Predator UAVs doing circuits and landings, which was quite fun for the boys.

Finding the RV park was a doddle, and as soon as we got there, we went straight into swimming pool a few hundred feet away to cool off. Even dad joined us at this point and he enjoyed it immensely, finding it very refreshing after sitting in a stuffy RV for some hours.

Paris, Nevada?

We were all a little tired after such a long and hot journey, but were keen to see ‘The Strip’ or Las Vegas Boulevard, to give it its proper name, so we walked a fair way to the other side of Circus Circus, but then luckily got a lift into Caesar’s Palace on the Strip. We walked about for a bit more and then realised we were still on Caesar’s Palace!! It’s a Big place. We were approaching the panic hours with the children (food or mood) so managed to get an outside table at Serendipity 3 overlooking the Strip watching all the Hum-Vs and Limos going by.

After a yummy supper, with only a couple of tantrums, we walked on a bit further to the Bellagio to see the fountains and the light display. It was understandably very crowded and the children, although impressed for an instant, were more interested in having their pictures taken with the Mad Hatter, Edward scissorhands, Iron Man and Bumblebee (the Transformer) 🙂

We were all tired by the end of the evening so we got a very crowded bus,with a VERY strict bus driver who simply refused on let anyone on at the middle as she had a one-way system working and needed to count people off and on to ensure she was legal – the PA system was shouted in to several time during our journey, and one poor lady was made to get  off and back on the bus again after she slipped on at the middle of the bus! 

Eventually  we got back to Circus Circus where the RV park was, but i was hard work for Dad.

We were all VERY hot overnight, but I think slept well anyway.

RV Travelling Day 9: Benton Hot Springs, CA to Las Vegas, NV
Day Mileage: 297 miles
Total Mileage: 1,415 miles
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